17th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S. Rosevear) 100k the chair at 10.30 a.m. and read prayers.
– Has the Prime Minister read in this morning’s press the reports - (1) That a record number of ships, including mercy ships, is held up La Sydney owing to strikes by wharf labourers; (2) That because of strikes, coal reserves are the lowest on record, yet stop-work meetings which will result in the loss of another 10,000 to 50,000 tons of coal are being planned by the miners federation; and (3) That the continuance of the strike of the Bunnerong power station employees threatens the disruption of lighting, power and essential services in Sydney? Are any of these industrial troubles the concern of the Commonwealth Government? If so, what action is the Government taking to stop this drift towards total industrial anarchy, which is threatening the nation at the present time?
– I have not read in the press to-day the reports referred to by the honorable member, but I am aware that trouble has arisen in connexion with the loading of certain ships on the waterfront, and have discussed the matter with the Minister for Supply and Shipping. It is generally agreed that work on the waterfront has been proceeding fairly satisfactorily for some time. “When I discussed the matter with representatives of the British Navy prior to the termination of the war, the position had greatly improved. With the honorable gentleman, I regret the trouble that has occurred in connexion with the unloading of sorghum that has been brought from overseas, as well as other cargoes. There have been industrial troubles on the coalfields for a long time, not only during the term of office of the Labour Government, but also during previous administrations, as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) knows very well; on one occa sion, there was almost a total cessation of work for three months. The late; Prime Minister, Mr. Curtin, during hi.* lifetime expressed deep regret at the lack of responsibility of certain sections of the coal-mining industry, and since becoming Prime Minister 1 have voiced similar sentiments. I do not condemn all the coal-miners, because in some districts splendid work has been done. The production in the western district, in which I have my home, has been a record. In the southern districts, generally speaking, production has been very good. Thai is true also of the coal mines in Queensland, and the mines at Wonthaggi and - perhaps not to the same degree - of those at Collie, where a few stoppages have occurred. The trouble has been principally on the northern coalfields. Some of the stoppages there are inexplicable to me, and officials of the miners federation find it equally difficult to account for them. On the motion for the adjournment of the House last Wednesday, I mentioned the efforts that had been made by the Government of New South Wales and the Trades and Labour Council of that State to effect a resumption of work at the Bunnerong power house.
– Surely they are not greater than the Commonwealth Government.
– If the honorable member asks a question and wants to answer it himself, I need not. bother to get up at all. The trouble at Bunnerong is between the men and what is a semi-government utility. I do not think that there is anything the Commonwealth Government can do about it more than can be done by the State Government and the Trades and Labour Council, both of which are trying to bring about a resumption.
– Has the Government no disciplinary powers?
– It has the same powers as had the Government in which the honorable member was a Minister. That Government had power to put all the coal-miners on the northern fields in gaol for. going on strike, but it did not do so.
– We supported the court.
– And who says that we are not supporting the court? The honorable member’s Government knew that to gaol the miners was more likely to aggravate the trouble than’ to cure it. lt is all very well to talk in “ hifalutin “ terms about the law, but there are some things which even the law cannot cure. This Government stands firmly behind the Arbitration Court and has made that declaration through the previous Prime Minister, through other Ministers, and through me. The Trades and Labour Council is anxious to get the men back to work, but that in itself does not get them back. The Commonwealth Government is deeply concerned over the matter.
– Then do something.
– The honorable member asks us to do something, but I should like him to make a suggestion.
– The Government prosecuted the bakers in Queensland. Why not prosecute the Bunnerong strikers?
– The honorable member has made that statement before about the Queensland bakers, but it is only half true. The fact is that certain prosecutions were launched in Queensland, but not all the bakers who disobeyed the order of the court were prosecuted.
– At least 52 of them were.
– I do not propose to debate the matter. I gave the honorable member credit for having spoken a half truth, but I might with justification claim that what he said was a complete untruth. The Government is not going to do stupid things that will merely aggravate the trouble.
– In other words, it proposes to do nothing.
– According to an Associated Press cable published in to-day’s press, Mr. Mackinnon, Minister for Trade in Canada, made the following announcement in the Canadian House of Commons : -
Regardless of what might happen to world prices in the next five years, the Government would guarantee that wheat-growers would a ever receive less than $1 a bushel.
Will the Government; introduce legislation to guarantee to the Australian wheat-growers a fixed minimum price based on the cost of production?
– Commonwealth legislation fixing the price of wheat would depend on agreement with the States and complementary legislation by them. The regulations under which the Commonwealth Government is able to control the wheat-growing industry and stabilize wheat prices will end with the expira- tion of the National Security Act. The honorable gentleman knows the constitutional limitations that prevent the Commonwealth Government from controlling marketing. All sorts of obstacles lie in the way of an agreement with the States to override those difficulties in respect of wheat. A review of the whole position in regard to wheat has been proceeding for about a month. That review involve* a consideration not only of a guaranteed price for wheat but also of stabilization of the wheat industry generally. It may take another month or two to reach a final conclusion in regard to Government policy. The honorable member may real assured that the point raised by him i? one of the points now under consideration.
– Is the Treasurer able to make a statement to the House abou! the position of dollar credits for Australian imports? Can he say whether Australia pools its dollar credits with those of Great Britain? Has the Government discussed with the American oil firms in Australia and other large importers of United States goods the obtaining of their requirements for the Commonwealth from countries within the sterling area?
– I am not able te make any final statement about th, position of lend-lease or the provision of dollar credits for the purchase in America of supplies needed in this country. The honorable member knows thai an acute economic position has arisen, and that the position of the United Kingdom is especially difficult, in view of the imports it needs and its short supply of dollar credits. I can say, however, that an arrangement has been made whereby minimum requirements of essential goods needed from America, which have to be paid for, of course, in dollars, will be supplied until the end of this calendar year. C have also authorized on behalf of the Government the placing of orders, on the undertaking that cash will be paid, for minimum requirements in the six months beginning the 1st January next. That meets the position temporarily. With regard to the second part of the question, it is true that Australia draws dollars available from the Empire dollar pool. Before the war Australia did not export enough to America to provide sufficient dollars to pay for its imports. It, therefore, drew from the Empire dollar pool, in common with the other dominions, to pay for its requirements. The dollars have always been in excess of goods requirements. That position continued during the war, and Empire countries pooled their dollar credits. It is from that pool that we are drawing in order to pay for goods from America. Following the termination of the lend-lease arrangement these goods are now the subject of negotiations on which Lord Keynes and Lord Halifax are engaged, with the Australian Minister to Washington and the Director of Import Procurements joining whereever possible. So far as I am able to judge from the discussions to date, all countries in the British Empire will encounter serious difficulties regarding dollar credits to meet what would be their normal requirements in the dollar area. I am expressing only my personal opinion, and not the opinion of the Government, when I say that countries in the British Empire, including the United Kingdom, will be obliged to confine themselves to purchasing the barest necessities within the dollar area, and wherever possible, requirements which formerly were obtained from the United States must be obtained in the sterling area. That could throw a strain on sterling eighteen months or two years hence. 1 should like to be able to give a clearer statement regarding the future, but am not able to do so. At present, I am making a specific statement as to what has been done regarding our immediate requirements, and expressing an opinion regarding difficulties in the future. All dollars ‘ are placed in th«Empire pool, and Australia draws itf proportion from it. Our normal requirements from the dollar area cannot be met with the dollars which will be available in the future-
Seizure of Stocks of Wholesale Butchers
– Last Tuesday, I asked the Acting Minister for Commerce and Agriculture a question concerning the seizure of the stocks of certain wholesale butchers in Melbourne, and mentioned, inter alia, that the people most likely to be penalized were members of the public. The Minister replied that steps had been taken to ensure that retail butchers would be supplied with meat. I am now informed that yesterday nearly 150 retail butchers in Melbourne were without supplies, and large numbers of customers had to go without meat. Will the right honorable gentleman take steps to ensure that the retail butchers concerned shall be provided immediately with the necessary supplies? Will he also issue instructions that no additional stocks of meat shall be seized until further inquiries have been made?
– This morning, I inquired into the matter, and was informed that the action taken by the Meat Controller was for the purpose of preventing black marketing in meat, and that no complaint had been received by him from any retail butcher regarding difficulties in getting supplies. However, I shall have further investigations made, and supply the information that the honorable member requires. I assure him that the Meat Controller is actuated by the highest motives in endeavouring to put a stop to black marketing in meat.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs whether the Ottawa Agreement is still in force, and whether there is any impediment to granting assistance, by way of the tariff, to any new industry proposed to be established in Australia at present?
– The subject will be examined by the Minister for Trade and Customs and myself, and I shall give a reply to the honorable member as soon as possible.
Discharges - Future or Army Public Relations Directorate - WaterFRONT Employment.
– The work of honorable members has been considerably increased by a flood of applications for releases from the fighting services. These entail lengthy interviews with servicemen and their friends, relatives, prospective employers and service chiefs. As a number of officers will not be discharged for some time until they qualify tinder the “ points “ system, will the Minister for the Army make available the services of some of them, in a liaison capacity, at the Federal Members’ Rooms in the capital cities, for the purpose of relieving the pressure on honorable members and facilitating the handling of these applications?
– I am anxious to help honorable members as much as I can in this matter, and shall give favorable consideration to the suggestion.
– Can the Minister for the Army inform the House whether the Director-General of Army Relations, Brigadier Rasmussen, and members of his staff have sufficient points to permit their demobilization on the 1st October? If not will the Minister say what justification exists for the continuance of this organization, and will he order its immediate abolition?
– I am not aware of the number of points which the persons mentioned possess under the demobilization scheme, but I shall make an inquiry and inform the honorable member of the result.
– Will the Minister for the Army arrange that soldiers now working on the wharfs in Sydney be demobilized immediately so that, if they continue waterside employment thereafter, they may receive the rates of pay provided for members of the Waterside Workers Federation?
– Consideration will be given to the honorable member’s suggestion.
Australian Defence following t. - Release op Civilian Internees in Pacific Areas - Japanese Wak Criminals.
– Will the Minister for Defence refer to the Prime Minister and the Cabinet the desirability of awarding an Australian defence medal to the people of this country who, not being permitted to go abroad, rendered service to the’ nation during its most dangerous period in the war years? Many thousands of men and women volunteered for service in the armed forces but were debarred from going overseas, and so arp not eligible for existing awards. Many thousands also served in the Volunteer Defence Corps and in the air raid precautions organizations. As the British Government has decided to award medal* to such persons, I ask whether the Commonwealth Government will follow that lead?
– The Government has not yet considered the subject, but I shall refer it to Cabinet.
– I bring to the notice of the Acting Minister for External Affairs the following telegram which I have just received : -
Wives and relatives civilian internees, especially Singapore, becoming desperate at lack of news of civilians.
Is the honorable gentleman able to make any information available to allay thi* anxiety ?
– The honorable member gave me prior notice, which I appreciated, of her intention to ask this question. Departmental officers are making all possible investigations in order to obtain news of the nature requested.
– by leave - A report in a section of the press makes it appear that no machinery exists for the apprehension of Japanese war criminals, except major personage* listed by General MacArthur. Thai is not correct. I made it clear on the 6th September that the charges by Mr.
Justice Webb to the War Crimes Commission had been placed on “List A” for the immediate apprehension of the offenders by the military authorities. As flew atrocities come to light with the release of Australian prisoners of war and internees, provision is made for dealing with them. It is quite competent for any Australian authority, military or other, to take steps to obtain evidence against persons believed to be responsible for atrocities and, where possible, to detain such persons. Instructions to that effect were given by the Government to the Commander-in-Chief, General “Sir Thomas Blarney, some weeks ago. As Acting Minister for External Affairs, I made a statement to the House on the 12th September, in which I made it clear that Australian authorities, military or other, could take steps not only to obtain all evidence but also to apprehend those suspected of having committed new atrocities, as well as those already listed. This is in accordance with the machinery of the War Crimes Commission, and the Government will adhere to it. As to whether the trials of Japanese charged with atrocities can be held in Australia, Australian Territories, or territories occupied by Australian forces, the Government has already received advice from its legal advisers as to the procedure that could be followed. The Government will maintain the closest contact with the War Crimes Commission, in ensuring that trials shall be held and justice shall be meted out. The procedure under consideration will include the holding of trials at a central point in the Pacific area, or at various places where atrocities have been committed.
– May we take it that the Army has the duty of investigating offences and arresting alleged offenders?
– Action has been taken accordingly. Instructions have been issued and are being carried out.
– As the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) has displayed such a keen interest in the coalmining industry, and in electricity undertakings, and would have us believe that he alone among us is interested in the subject, I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping whether he will refer to his colleague a proposal that that honorable member be placed in supreme command of coal production and electricity undertakings?
– The honorable member for Wentworth is, of course, a fine upstanding type of Australian. I sometimes think i that he has missed his vocation. If he had obtained employment at a pit-face where he could hew coal, I am confident that his production would be on the highest level. I am not aware of what experience he has had of electricity undertakings. I myself have had some experience in that industry. If a medal were awarded for the production of coal, and the honorable member foi Wentworth were a coal-miner, I am sure he would become entitled to an award.
Archerfield, Amberley, and Eagle Farm Aerodromes
– I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation whether he can inform the House of the Government’s plans for Archerfield, Amberley and Eagle Farm aerodromes?
– The future of Archerfield aerodrome is fully assured as the principal airport of Brisbane. Eagle Farm aerodrome is still occupied by the American forces. When it is handed back to the Commonwealth consideration will be given to its future in relation to Brisbane’s civil air services.
– Because of the very large area of office space that is occupied by Commonwealth departments in the heart of the city of Melbourne, discharged servicemen are experiencing the greatest difficulty in becoming rehabilitated in their former occupations, because they cannot secure the office space which they previously occupied or other office accommodation which might be available for their use were it not occupied by the Commonwealth. Will the Minister for the Interior have prepared for the information of honorable members a table setting out the area of office accommodation now occupied by the Commonwealth in Melbourne, together with the rents that are paid for iti Can the honorable gentleman also state what practical steps are being taken with a view to having government departments accommodated elsewhere, thus making available for civilian purposes the space that they now occupy?
– A survey of office accommodation used by Commonwealth departments is being made in New South “Wales and, upon its completion, a similar survey will be made in Victoria, for the purpose of ascertaining what space will be vacated in consequence of the cessation of war activities. The purchase of property is contemplated for the purpose of establishing permanent and adequate office accommodation, not only in New South Wales but also in Victoria and other States.
– Can the Minister for Works and Housing give the assurance that sufficient quantities of domestic hardware will be available to ensure that the housing targets mentioned by him will be reached and that the houses, when built, will be sufficiently equipped to permit of their being- occupied?
– The supply of hardware fittings of all kinds is a function of that great institution which the honorable gentleman supports so consistently - private enterprise. Should private enterprise fail to discharge its responsibility, the job will not be done. Whenever private enterprise is in difficulty it approaches the Government, “ cap in hand “, for assistance. The Government will do all that it can to help.
Industrial Finance Department
– Is the Treasurer able to state whether the Industrial Finance Department of the Commonwealth Bank, authorized by recent legislation, is yet functioning? If so, will the right honorable gentleman arrange that small industrial proprietors who desire to purchase machinery from the Commonwealth Disposals Commission may be able to obtain assistance from that department instead of being advised by other departments concerned to obtain their requirements from private finance agencies?
– It is hoped that the Industrial Finance Department of the Commonwealth Bank will be operating very shortly. Difficulty has been experienced in securing the necessary office accommodation. The Minister for’ Defence, who is chairman of a Cabinet sub-committee that is investigating office accommodation in Sydney, hopes that space at the Commonwealth Bank, now occupied by other departments, will become available within the next few weeks. The manager of the new Industrial Finance Department has been appointed, and I expect that a commencement will be made with the organization of the department within, may be, the next month. Meanwhile, all the preliminary work that can be done will be completed. I shall discuss with the Governor of the bank the possibility of meeting the financial need referred to by the honorable member.
Bill presented by Mr. Forde, and read a first time.
– by leave - 1 move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
I direct the attention of honorable members to the statement made in this House by the Prime Minister on the 30th August, when he laid on the table the report and recommendations of the London Wool Conference. Since that time, honorable members who have so desired have had opportunities for discussion of the report and recommendations with the leader of the Australian delegation to the conference.
The plan recommended by the Wool Conference, having received the approval of the Governments of the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and South
Africa, is now submitted for the approval of Parliament, and authority is required to proceed with the establishment of an organization to fulfil, on behalf of the Commonwealth Government, Australia’s obligations under the plan.
There is little need to impress upon honorable members the importance of the wool industry to Australia, and the benefits to be derived from any plan which can afford some measure of stability to the industry. The net annual value of Australian wool production during the five years before the war averaged £45,000,000. This figure is the nearest recorded figure to the actual income of the graziers and farmers from the production of wool. It is, of course, less than the recorded gross values resulting from the auction sales, which in the five years immediately preceding the war averaged £51,000,000 per annum. This difference consists of all charges between the farm and the auction room and includes freight, cartage and selling cost3. It also includes the cost of wool packs and materials used in the process of production.
The importance of wool production in each State, and of the income from wool in the total income of graziers and farmers is shown by the following figures : -
These figures show that for Australia as a whole the farmers derive nearly 29 per cent, of their total income from wool. The value of the industry is further proved by reference to the value of exports. The following statistics show that during .the five pre-war years export income from wool was a very high per centage of the total value of all merchandise exports: -
If we can ensure a reasonable measure ot stability to Australia’s greatest industry we shall benefit the whole economy. It if clear that in the pre-war period the industry suffered greatly from instability of prices. Looking back over the twenty years before the outbreak of war in 1939, we find that from year to year there have been great fluctuations in prices and therefore in the incomes of the woolgrowers. In those twenty years there were only five in which the fluctuation of the price per lb. compared with the previous year was less than 15 per cent., and there were nine years when the fluctuation was 24 per cent, or greater. Even in years when the price for particular kinds of wool was approximately the same at the beginning as the end of the season, there were generally quite substantial price fluctuations during the season. The growers were sufferers from these fluctuations, and they could not bf expected to regard with satisfaction a system which permitted them. Having regard, however, to the magnitude of the industry, it would have been very difficult for any Federal Government to have given an absolute guarantee of a stated minimum price. The cooperation of other countries was required, and that co-operation has now been secured through this Empire wool plan, which draws into active partnership the United Kingdom- and the three wool-growing dominions.
The war-time plan under which the United Kingdom purchased all Australian and New Zealand wool, and afforded certain guarantees in respect of South African wool, gave stability to wool-growers. However, because of the submission to Germany of so many important European wool-using countries, and the entry into the war of Italy and Japan as enemies, the United Kingdom was left with very large unsold stocks of wool. Australian wool-growers were able to dispose annually of their full production at fixed prices, but the United Kingdom was obliged to hold in stock such quantities of wool as could not be used by the British Empire and its allies, and by friendly neutrals to whom supplies’ could safely ‘be sold. So great was the burden imposed upon the United Kingdom that .the British Government, in October, 1944, asked the wool-growing dominions to enter into consultations in regard to the position. The object was to work out a plan which would relieve the United Kingdom of the immediate heavy financial burden, and, at the same time, provide a plan for the orderly disposal of the accumulated stocks and the sharing of ‘financial responsibilities, both present and future. The wool-growing dominions had no hesitation in entering into these consultations, and all have agreed with the United Kingdom to adopt the plan which was unanimously recommended by the London conference.
The plan is primarily one for the disposal of the surplus stocks, but it goes much further than that. As the Prime Minister stated when announcing the plan, it amounts to the underwriting of the income of dominion wool producers during the whole period required for the disposal of the surplus stocks.
The underwriting of wool-growers’ income is based upon the annual determinaby the four Governments of a general level of reserve prices for wool, and the application of that general reserve to the various kinds of wool, and to the individual lots of the many thousands of wool-growers.
In order to make effective the series of reserve prices, a joint organization is to be established to administer the plan. In addition to arranging the practical application of the reserve price approved by the Governments, this organization will buy in any wool offered by a grower for sale which does not bring the reserve price in the open market. A brief exposition of the technique of marketing procedure will illustrate the methods by which the reserve prices will be made effective. The four Governments will, each year, fix the general level of reserve prices to operate for the ensuing wool year. The joint organization to be established pursuant to the plan will apply that general level of reserve prices to the various kinds of wool. The Australian Wool Realization Commission, which will be the Australian subsidiary of the joint organization, will apply the type values to the various lots which will be submitted by the individual growers for appraisement and sale.
Wool will go to auction or may be sold direct to manufacturers. It is hoped that growers will dispose of their wool, as far as possible, in either of those two ways, because such procedure will ensure the satisfactory operation of the reserve price. However, there will not be any general prohibition upon the sale of wool to dealers by growers who find this procedure convenient. It will not be possible, of course, for the Government to ensure that growers who dispose of their wool in this way shall receive the protection of the reserve price.
The relationship between the reserve price, the marketing procedure, and the contributory charge provided for in the plan, can best be explained by reference to the system of sale by auction. A particular lot of wool will be appraised by the technical experts of the Australian Wool Realization Commission and an auction reserve will be placed on it. That wool will then be offered for sale by auction and, subject to the grower’s right of withdrawal, will be sold to the highest commercial bidder, provided he bids up to the reserve price or higher. Wool for which the highest bid is lower than the auction reserve, will be bought in by the Australian Wool Realization Commission at the auction reserve. The contributory charge, which will be of sufficient proportions to cover the industry’s half-share of the operational costs and the interest on the outlay by the Commonwealth on the purchase of wool, will be assessed; and the proceeds, after deduction of the contributory charge, will be paid by the broker to the grower, who will, of course, be responsible for the usual selling charges as at present.
The auction reserve for each lot of wool under this new plan will take the place of the issue price which operated under the war-time plan, i.e., the price at which wool was sold by the United Kingdom Government to overseas buyers. The grower’s reserve will take the place of the actual price paid to the grower under the war-time plan. The contributory charge will be the difference between the auction reserve and the grower’s reserve and will take the place of the margin in the war-time plan between the price charged to the overseas buyer and the price paid to the grower, In each case the margin is used to cover costs-. In the war-time plan the margin was sufficient to cover costs and establish a reserve against future losses, [t is likely that, on the whole, the margin under this long-term plan will not need to be so great as that which existed under The war-time plan. ‘
Honorable members will realize from this description that the contributory charge is not some new impost compared with the present position. Just as there was a margin under the war-time plan between the price paid to the grower and the price charged to the overseas buyer, so there will be a margin under this new plan. If selling prices can be maintained, the position of growers will be at least as good as it has been under the war-time plan. ‘ Attention, therefore, should be focused on those provisions of the plan which are designed to avoid violent price fluctuations and so give a measure of stability to the industry. These provisions are clearly seen in the exposition of the plan in the report of the London Conference and are concisely stated in the schedule to the bill. The annually fixed reserve price provides the floor to the market; the judicious purchase of wool by the organization will make that floor effective, and the sale of wool from stocks will, in general, keep the upper levels of prices at reasonable figures. The effectiveness of the reserve price, and the general success of the plan, will be apparent if, year by year, the total quantity of wool disposed of is equal to the current production, plus a reasonable quantity from stocks.
During the present wool year, 1945-46, wool will be taken up by the system of appraisement and acquisition, just as during the war, and will be handled by the joint organization on behalf of the United Kingdom and Commonwealth Governments. The system of appraisement, reserve prices and auction will be introduced when conditions are favorable, probably in the year 1946-47. The Go vernment is gratified at the cordial reception which has been accorded the plan by the wool-growers’ organization* and by the other sections of the industry and trade, both in Australia and overseas. It is clear, of course, that the plan contains great benefits for the industry - not only for the growers but also for the manufacturers and users of wool, who must gain benefits from price stability at a reasonable level.’ The Government recognizes that it is assuming very great responsibilities, in regard to both finance and administration. It is launching a commercial undertaking of huge proportions, and must accept the financial hazards which such an undertaking imposes.
In the financial sphere Australia enters into a full partnership with the United Kingdom, and assumes a fifty-fifty share in the stocks of Australian wool owned by the United Kingdom Government on the 31st July, 1945. Those stocks are costed in the books at £100,000,000 sterling. As against that cost there is a credit balance in the accounts, in respect of Australian wool already sold, of £20,000,000 sterling; that sum is available in reduction of the cost of the existing stocks, thus reducing that cost to £80,000,000 sterling. Australia’s halfshare of stocks at the outset will thus cost £40,000,000 sterling, which sum is to be provided in the next four years. From now on the United Kingdom and Australia are equal partners in that wool and in all wool which will be purchased by the joint organization from time to time during the operation of the plan. The funds for future purchases will be provided equally by the two Governments who will also share equally in the distribution of financial proceeds and in any profits or losses on the joint buying and selling operations.
Australia’s financial responsibilities and rights may be summarized as follows: £40,000,000 sterling will be found over the next four years at the rate of at least £10,000,000 sterling per annum. There may be applied towards meeting the annual financial responsibility, Australia’s share of the proceeds of wool sold from the jointly held stocks. At the same time Australia will find half of the money required each year to finance any further necessary purchases of wool by the joint organization. The operating costs of the plan will be met, as to half by the industry, and as to the other half by the two Governments in equal proportions. The share of the Governments will be met from realizations, and the share of the industry will be met from the contributory charge, in respect of which separate legislation will be introduced within a few days. The organization for the administration of the plan in the United Kingdom and the three dominions will be a joint one. The central body will be directed by nine directors of whom four will be nominated by the United Kingdom, two by Australia, and one each by New Zealand and South Africa, and there will be an independent chairman selected by the four Governmentsin agreement. In each dominion there will be an active subsidiary, which will be set up by that dominion and will discharge on its behalf its responsibilities and functions under the plan. The functions of these organizations have been generally described by me in my exposition of the plan; they are also clearly set out in the schedule to the bill and need not be further expounded by meat this stage.
I shall now inform the House regarding the constitution of the Australian organization, which will be known as the Australian Wool Realization Commission. The Government has given very close consideration to the composition of the commission, and has borne in mind the experience gained during the administration of the war-time wool acquirement plan on behalf of Australia by the Central “Wool Committee. Australia has been extraordinarily well served by the Central Wool Committee and is deeply indebted to its personnel of that committee, including the representatives of the various branches of the industry. The committee has been presided over in turn by the late Mr. A. E. Bell, Justice Sir Owen Dixon of the High Court of Australia, and Mr. Justice W. F. L. Owen of the Supreme Court of New South Wales. These gentlemen have rendered distinguished service to Australia in guiding the deliberations of the committee in the administration of the war-time plan.
Mr. N. W. Yeo has been executive mem ber from the outset, and for most of the time he has been deputy chairmanof the committee. He has most efficiently fulfilled the duties and responsibilitiesof those positions. The representatives of growers, brokers, buyers and manufacturers have devoted themselves without reservation to the difficult and important functions which the com mittee has been called upon to discharge. The general public may not be aware that the Australian Table of Limits in respect of wool values, which was prepared by Mr. J. R. McGregor, the representative of wool-buyers on the Central Wool Committee, is almost unique and is of inestimable value to the wool-growers of Australia and the war-time wool administration generally.
In approaching the post-war problems and the functions of the Australian Wool Realization Commission, we shall, fortunately, profit by the skill and experience of the Central Wool Committee. It will not be possible to constitutethe commission in exactly the same form as the Central Wool Committee. For example, it is not possible to have as a member of the commission an active wool-buyer. The commission will be organizing, and to an extent managing, the annual disposal of the wool clip,and will be dependent on competition amongst buyers for the maintenance of values. Similar considerations apply in the case of the manufacturers, who themselves may be buyers of wool either at auction or direct from growers. As to the wool-selling brokers, their services and co-operation are necessary in the receipt and display of wool, as well as its sale after it has been appraised. Some growers are not favorably disposed towards the brokers, and have expressed objection to their being represented on the commission, the prime function of which is to manage the disposal of wool and to protect the current clips of growers. As against the adverse views expressed by some growers, I should point out that successive governments have recognized that the wool brokers have rendered efficient and essential services in the conduct of the war-time wool acquirement plan, and the broken have recently assured the Government of their full co-operation in the long-term post-war plan.
Having regard to the necessity to ensure the efficient administration of the plan and cordial co-operation from all branches of the industry, the Government proposes that the Australian Wool Realization Commission shall consist of the following: -Chairman and executive member, who will be the administrators of the plan; four growers, two to be representative of the Australian Woolgrowers Council, and two to be representative of the Wool Producers Federation.
– Will they be selected from a panel?
– They will be selected from a panel of eight names, four of which will be submitted by the Australian Woolgrowers Council and four by the Wool Producers Federation. From that panel of eight names the Government will select two representatives from each of those organizations. Another member of the Australian Wool Realization Commission will be a repregentative of the Federated Storemen and Packers Union. He will be selected from a panel of two names submitted by that organization. The other two members of the commission will be chosen for their knowledge of the marketing of wool.
– Whowill select them ?
– The Government. We propose to select one person who has had adequate experience in the buying and appraisement of wool and one who has had adequate experience in the woolbroking business. However, the persons chosen will not be regarded as direct representatives of the buying and broking sections of the industry. The bill gives to the commission power to appoint advisory or technical committees. The purpose is to provide a formal basis for full co-operation between the commission, the growers and the wool-buyers and similar collaboration can be secured in this way from the Australian manufacturers. I commend the bill to the earnest consideration of honorable members, who will agree that it is one of the most important measures ever introduced in this Parliament.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Hutchin- son) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr. Beasley,and read a first time.
-by leave-I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to make several necessary amendments of the Bankruptcy Act. The first amendment relates to the salary and pension of the Judge in Bankruptcy. The act provides expressly for the establishment of a Federal Court of Bankruptcy, which is to consist of a judge or judges not more than two in number, who may be appointed by the GovernorGeneral in Council. The qualifications of a judge of the Federal Court of Bankruptcy are set out. He may be or have been either a judge or a practising barrister or solicitor of five years’ standing. Section 18c provides that if a person appointed as judge of the Federal Court of Bankruptcy was, immediately prior to his appointment, a judge of a federal court, he shall be entitled to receive the same salary and pension as if his service as Judge in Bankruptcy were a continuation of his service as a judge of the other federal court. The act makes no express provision for the salary of the judge if he is appointed from the ranks of the profession or if he was previously a judge of a State court.
At present, there is one Federal Bankruptcy Judge, His Honour Mr. Justice Clyne. He was not, immediately prior to his appointment, a judge of a federal court, so that the provisions of section 18c to which I referred are not applicable to him. In the Executive Council minute relating to his appointment, Mr. Justice Clyne’s salary was fixed at £2,500 per annum, being the salary customarily payable to a judge of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. It is now proposed to amend the actby making express provision that that amount shall be the salary of a judge of the Federal Court of Bankruptcy who was not, immediately prior to his appointment, a judge of another federal court.
The amendment also provides for a pension for the judge of the Federal Court of Bankruptcy at the same rate as the pension payable to the judges of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, with this difference, that where a judge of the Federal Court of Bankruptcy was, immediately prior to his appointment, serving in any judicial office under a State, the term of that service, but not exceeding five years in any case, shall be added to the term of his service as Judge in Bankruptcy for the purpose of calculating pension. This provision will apply to His Honour Mr. Justice Clyne, who, prior to his appointment as Judge in Bankruptcy, was a county court judge in Victoria.
The bill also makes express provision for the taking of an oath of allegiance and oath of office by judges of the Federal Court of Bankruptcy. Such oaths were in fact taken by Mr. Justice Clyne on his appointment. It is proposed that the new sections relating to the oaths and to salary and pension shall be deemed to have come into operation on the 7th November, 1942, that being the date of Mr. Justice Clyne’s appointment.
The next amendment is contained in clause 3, which proposes to amend section 155 of the Bankruptcy Act so as to provide for the examination of persons who are likely to be able to give information regarding the affairs of deceased debtors whose estates are being administered under the Bankruptcy Act. A somewhat limited provision already exists in section 155 (2) (b), but it is proposed to omit this paragraph and in its stead to make the provisions of section 80 of the act applicable to the estates of deceased bankrupts. Section 80 is the provision which applies in the case of ordinary bankruptcy and there is no reason why it should not also apply in the case of a deceased bankrupt.
The next amendment affects Part XII. of the act. That part relates to deeds of arrangement. No provision exists in that part for the removal of the trustee of a deed of arrangement or the appointment of a new trustee, although Part XI., which relates to compositions and assign ments without sequestration, contains,in section 181, provision for such removal It is, therefore, proposed to insert in Part XII. a new section 203 in terms similar to those of section 181 in Part X]
The amendments proposed to be madw by the bill are of a machinery nature only, and do not alter, fundamentally, the existing bankruptcy law. I com mend the measure to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Menzies; adjourned.
In Committee of Supply: Considera tion resumed from the 20th September (vide page 5755).
Department of Trade and Customs
Proposed vote, £767,000.
– Under Division No. 63 an amount of £5,100 is provided for film censorship This subject has given educationists in Australia a great deal of concern, because films have a very great, and often deleterious, effect on the minds of young people. The effect of films upon fashion is but an indication of their wide’ influence. It is important, therefore that the subject should be’ considered carefully. Some time ago a body of people in Melbourne, particularly interested in child welfare, raisedthis question with me, and I took stepsto obtain the opinion of a gentleman who was closely associated with the exhibition of films. He was kind enough to give me his views on the standard of films offering. In his own theatre he maintains a high standard at all times. He stated -
There is a distinct lack of film available whichisthoroughlysuitableforthejuvenile mindandmanytheatreshave,inthepast beenextreamlycarelessinthetypeofpro- grammesofferedatmatineesandinthesuper visionofattendanceatotherperformances whenentirelyunsuitablefilmswereoffered However,therecenttendencyhasbeento confinematineeattractionstofilmspassed bytheCommonwealthCensoras”Suitablefor GeneralExhibition”,whichisadistinctstep- in the right direction.
I amsurethehonorablememberswho havegiventhesubjectanythoughtwill agreewithmethattheclassificationof films is strangely based. I have seen films classified as “ Suitable for General Exhibition “ which I should have been sorry for members of my family to see, and I have seen other films classified as * Not Suitable for General Exhibition “ with which I personally could find no fault. This gentleman proceeded to say - [ feel that still another censorship classification could be introduced which would indicate films that are thoroughly suitable for children’s matinees. lt this were done, the present three classifications, viz.: - “General Exhibition”, “Not Suitable for General Exhibition “, and “ For Adults Only “, could probably be reduced to two, viz.: - “ General .Exhibition “ and “ For Adults Only”; and in this event, legislation which would prevent the admission of children unless accompanying parent or guardian might well he introduced to cover “ The Adult Only “ category films.
That is a point worth noting. His final comment that I shall quote is -
Many films are imported with no vestige if merit - cheap cowboy pictures, nonsensical musicales, and until war and spy films took their place, gangster and other crime films, (f by some form of limiting import quota scheme such films as these, and stupid serial tiling, might be weeded out before they reached local screens, not only would dealing with he present problem be facilitated, but the raising of the standard of cinema entertainment in this country would be effected.
I commend these suggestions to the Government for they have been made by a gentleman eminently qualified to express an opinion on the subject. I hope hat effect will be given to them.
– I appreciate the importance of the subject mentioned by the honorable member for Darwin
Dame Enid Lyons). I believe that we all are anxious that the quality of the nlms produced and exhibited in this country shall be improved, particularly in the interests of our young people. Undoubtedly films play an important part :u the moulding of the characters of the rising generation. This has been realized in the United .States of America, where vast sums of money have been invested in the industry in a definite, and largely successful, attempt to capture the film markets of the world. I was able to make a close study of the motion picture industry in 1927-28, when, cts a member of a royal commission appointed by the Commonwealth Government to investigate the subject, I with other members of the commission, toured all the States and heard voluminous evidence from picture exhibitors and distributors. The chairman of the com mission, it may be remembered, was Mt Walter Marks.
– That was before tb« introduction of sound films.
– Yes. The powers oi the Commonwealth Parliament in thi matter are limited, for although a Film Censorship Board has been operating foi a considerable time, the Commonwealth has no power over supervision, distribution and advertising of films. Such power is now being sought from tinStates. The subject was fully discussed at the recent Premiers Conference, and I hope that the State parliaments ma.T be willing to transfer such power to thi Commonwealth Parliament for, in m) opinion, the central authority would b’ best able to exercise it. The subject i> now dealt with by legislation passed b> six State parliaments, so very little uni formity of practice is discernable. I am entirely in sympathy with the very helpful suggestions of the honorable member for Darwin, and will have the matte i further considered.
.- It i> desirable, indeed necessary, that the Go vernment should make, at an early date, a specific declaration of its policy and intentions in regard to the future production of tobacco in Australia. During the war years, considerable effort habeen directed towards the stimulation of tobacco production, and great progress has been made. Stability has been given to the industry through Govern ment activities ; particularly by means of guaranteed prices on the basis o/ appraisals. I understand that a bonus of 10 per cent, is to be paid on th> tobacco produced during the season which preceded the last season. There are two principal considerations which ought Ucompel the Government to take a definite stand. The industry produces an ordinary agricultural product in which Australia ought to be selfsufficient. Even though we are not ab to produce a tobacco which quite satisfies the taste of smokers if not blended with imported leaf, at least we should b-i able to produce the bulk of our requirements. It has been claimed for many years that a flavour suitable to the requirements of Australian smokers cannot be obtained in the locally produced leaf. If that be so, Australia is singular in that respect. A long-range programme designed to achieve the progressive though gradual mixture of imported and Australian leaf should result in the acquirement of a taste for tobacco that we are able to produce. Some progress in that respect has been made within the last few years, by lowering the excise on tobacco containing a certain proportion of Australian leaf. The blended product has proved quite satisfactory. The industry has been stimulated, and Australian smokers have not complained that the progressive increase of the proportion of Australian leaf in the blended product has resulted in an unsatisfactory flavour. Consequently, there should not be any real, lasting obstacle to Australia becoming substantially self-sufficient in the production of its own requirements of tobacco. The growing of tobacco should be a natural agricultural industry in Australia. A very high yield to the acre is obtained, a good deal of employment is provided, and the industry lends itself to the settlement of ex-servicemen. From all of those points of view, the production of tobacco is eminently desirable
The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) has informed the Parliament of the great difficulties which this country will experience in the future in securing sufficient 1011ars to pay for its imports from the United States of America, from which country we obtain most of the tobacco we obtain abroad. The reduction of those imports would afford relief to the Empire dollar pool; therefore, we should go as far as we can in that direction. Our growers have now i fairly sound knowledge of the subject. The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research has been most helpful to the industry. Very valuable aid has ‘been given in recent years by the State Departments of Agriculture. The stabilization of the industry is all that is now needed. The industry should be encouraged to plan for years ahead, and ro invest in the most modern equipment for the growing and processing of tobacco. What is needed is a clear-cur declaration by the Government thathe minimum production should b “x” million lb. I merely ask the Government to calculate what should bt regarded as a desirable target. This should be on an ascending scale. The Government should then promise what ever assistance may be necessary by means of a discriminating excise anc scientific advice.
.- In 1932, as a result of a. thorough survey and much research, 1 published a review of the position and possibilities of the Australian tobacco industry in North Queensland. I am sure that the facts, figures and arguments which I presented on that occasion would be helpful to-day in considering the establishment on a sound economic basis of this great industry, which could easily be the means of placing on the Australian market tobacco that would take the placeof what is now imported. I see no reason to alter the conclusions at which I then arrived. As a matter of fact, many of them have since been proved correct, and have become well established. I concluded with these observations -
With ideal climate and soil conditions, expert Government tuition, and a proved capacity to produce a high-class bright flue cured leaf of mie texture, colour and agree able smoking aroma acceptable to British smokers, North Queensland can establish th? tobacco industry on a truly national basis for home consumption and British export.
A careful study of the foregoing statistics ‘ and established facts should arouse enthusiasm and emphasize the undoubted possibility of the establishment of a new and beneficial agricultural industry, which will not only tend to thu advantageous development of North Queensland, and the creation of a desirable export trade, but will provide an expedition and ready means of alleviating, if not totally eliminating, the unemployment problem of the State of Queensland, and its consequent burdell , on the taxpayer.
It has been proved beyond doubt that Australian tobacco, particularly the light yellow leaf grown in North Queensland, compares favorably with the best imported tobacco. The Australian Tobacco Investigation Committee, in conjunction with the Departments of Agriculture in some of the States, ‘arranged in 1927-21, for the planting of a number of experimental tobacco plots. The first-class leaf of light colours grown on those plots was comparable with thebest Virginian leaf. I am just as enthusiastic to-day as I was in 1932, in regard to the possibilities of this great agricultural industry. I emphasize the statement of the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen), that the Government should enunciate a longrange policy, in order that the industry may play an important part in the postwar development of this country, particularly in obviating the need to import tobacco which we can produce economically and well.
. -I support the remarks of the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen), and the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden), in regard to the production of tobacco in Australia. The Tamworth district, in the New England electorate, was at one time a large producer of tobacco, but production has gradually declined, and recently there wereonly eight growers in the whole of the district. Most of the tobacco smoked in Australia is imported from the United States of America, and only this morning the Prime Minister stated that the position in regard to dollar exchange was acute. For some years past, he said, Australia had shared in an Empire pool of dollar credits, and as our imports from the United States of America exceed our exports to that country, it is evident that we have been dependent upon the contributions to the dollar poolby other Empire countries. Great Britain hasbeen compelled to restrict its imports from the United States, and Australia will probably have to follow suit, even in regard to tobacco. Therefore, our people will go short of tobacco unless the Government takes action to ensure a greater production of leaf in this country. I was glad to hear the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) say that Australian tobacco, in spite of charges tothe contrary, has a flavour which is not distasteful to the majority of smokers. At any rate, it has a flavour which smokers can quickly learn to like. If peopleare prepared to smoke some of the tobaccos produced in South Africa - and they are - there should be no difficulty in inducing our people to acquire a taste* for Australian tobacco. All this talk about the unsuitability of Australiantobacco is just so much propaganda to protect the interests of. importers of American leaf. In the past, tobaccowas grown in Australia on unsuitable land - rich river flats, which gave a high yield, but the leaf was not of good quality. Grown on lighter country, the yield isless, but the quality of the leaf is higher.
– Great difficulty has been experienced in attempting to establish £ tobacco-growing industry in Australia, and we have had to ‘listen to a lot of fairy tales about the quality of out tobacco, and the reasons why it is supposed to be unsuitable for general use. For example, we have been told that it has an objectionable flavour of eucalyptus. One big tobacco-importing firm actually brought soil to this country from the United States of America and grew an experimental plot of tobacco in it, and we were told that even then the leaf produced had a flavour of eucalyptus. Absurd statements of this kind have been made in an attempt to injure the reputation of Australian leaf. 1 have seen a very fine experimental plot of tobacco grown under New South Wales Government expert supervision and advice at Texas, in southern Queensland, and when the leaf was taken out of the kiln the representatives of the importing firm condemned it on the ground that it had a eucalyptus flavour. The report was spread abroad that Australia could not produce tobacco to supplyits own requirements and that, at best, Australian leaf was suitable only for blending with imported leaf. This is not borne out by the experience of Canada. When I was there, I found that Canadawas growing the total requirement of the tobacco consumed in that country, not more than about 4 per cent. being importedfrom the United States of America for blending purposes, We used to think that tobacco could be grown successfully only in countries with a warm climate. In Australia, the industry is limited to warm latitudes, hut in Canada it is being grown on land which, for six months of the year,is under snow. Experts there have worked on the problem for over 50 years, with the result that, although Canada lies alongside the United States of America, which is a great tobacco-producing country, it is practically independent of its neighbour for its tobacco supplies. If that result can be achieved in Canada, we ought to be able to do even better.
– “Who destroyed the tobacco-growing industry in Australia?
– I have always believed that the progress of the industry has been retarded by the big tobacco-manufacturing interests. Very fine tobacco leaf can be produced in Queensland and New South “Wales, but the present high rates of excise and customs militate against the success of the Australian industry. The American cigarette contains a good tobacco which suits the taste of the Americans - and of many Australians, for that matter. It is a bigger cigarette than ours, and in the United States of America the price varies, according to State taxes, from 14 cents to 17 cents - 4d. to 7d. - for a packet of twenty. Here we have to pay lOd. for a packet of ten small cigarettes. Australian smokers will pay this year £21,900,000 in excise and customs duty. This is altogether too much, and the Australian industry cannot possibly develop under those conditions. There may have been some justification during the war for such high taxes, but, now ‘that the war is over, they should be reduced. In 1938-39, customs and excise duties on tobacco yielded £9,500,000, whilst this year’s budget expectation is £21,900,000. Because of the unsatisfactory position in regard to dollar exchange, we shall be compelled more and more to trade with countries which are off the gold standard. Britain will have to look to countries other than the United States of America for its tobacco, and this provides us with an opportunity to expand our tobacco-growing industry so that we may have leaf for export.’ As a first step, we should reduce duties so that tobacco may be sold to the public at a reasonable price.
– The tobaccogrowing industry is one in which I have taken a very keen interest for many years. Tobacco is a small man’s crop. The industry lends itself to closer settlement and makes for increasing the population in many out-back areas of Australia.
– And it employs a lot of labour.
– Yes, it employs a lot of labour. When I was Minister for Trade and Customs in the Scullin Ministry in 1931, I had the industry investigated by the Tariff Board. That body made very helpful recommendations as to how the industry could be assisted, and the Scullin Government imposed protective duties on imported leaf in order to encourage the development of tobacco-growing, with the result that the number of growers increased considerably in all States where the climate and soil conditions were suitable. I inspected the tobacco-growing areas of Myrtleford, in Victoria. Mareeba, in Northern Queensland, Texas in South-western Queensland, and Miriam Vale and Bororen, in my electorate. I have no doubt that Australia oan produce a large range of varieties of tobacco leaf for blending. There is no reason why we should not produce practically all our tobacco requirements. As the result of the direct encouragement given to the industry by the Scullin Government
– The Country party did not support it.
– The Country party is the tobacco-grower’s best friend.
– I can say without fear of contradiction that the Scullin Government gave the most generous assistance ever given to the tobacco-growing industry. The duties that we imposed to enco’urage, not only the tobacco-growing industry, but also a number of other industries were criticized, but I think ii can be safely said that in those days the foundation was laid for the development of Australian secondary industries that, when war broke out, were able to switch from peace-time to war-time production on a huge scale, enabling Australia to produce implements of war and munition* far in excess of anything that had been thought possible. That was the result of the protectionist policy. I have always believed that if a protectionist policy i* a good tiling for secondary industries it is equally good for primary industries. That is why, as Minister for Trade and Customs, I brought down a tariff schedule giving protection to the tobaccogrowing industry. Governments come and go. That has been the experience over the years, but, from what one can hear nowadays this Government will last for a very long time. Unfortunately, however, the Scullin Government went out of office, and, with the change of government, there was a change of fiscal policy, and my successor as Minister for Trade and Customs, the late Sir Henry Gullett, considered that there should be a very substantial reduction of the duty on tobacco leaf. Of course, when we were still in office, the big tobaccomanufacturing companies, which were buying their leaf chiefly from the United States of America but also from other places abroad, did not want a heavy duty on the imported leaf and did not want to be bothered with the small Australian tobacco-growing industry. It was a nuisance to them, because the growers were, naturally, trying to sell their leaf at the highest prices. They somewhat irritated the tobacco combine. But the Scullin Government was undaunted and went on with its policy. An amazing increase of the local production of tobacco leaf resulted. The industry, like every other new industry in Australia, had teething troubles. The growers were not well versed in modern methods of cultivation. But those troubles would have been overcome if the protection given by the Scullin Government bad been maintained. It was not, and with the steep reduction of the duties, leaf was imported in such quantities as to wipe out practically the Australian industry. Thereafter the industry was in the doldrums again for years. Since the outbreak of war, of course, other troubles have militated against the expansion of the industry, ft is a large labour-employing industry, and naturally it suffered an acute shortage of man-power during the war. That problem will not remain for very long, and with the discharge of tens of thousands of men from the fighting service, there will be labour for all primary and secondary industries. When we are able to imple ment a comprehensive immigration policy we shall be looking to industries of this type to provide employment, and the Government has given considerable thought to the tobacco-growing industry in that respect. It appointed the Tobacco Industry Stabilization Committee, which consists of practical men, to investigate the industry thoroughly. That committee made a report to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully), and, as the result, the Government has already approved the payment of a bounty on the 1943-44 and 1944-45 crops, and has asked the committee to devise means whereby a price increase may be granted on the 1945-46 crop. Consideration is also being given to means whereby production may be increased and the industry stabilized. A departmental committee is considering that matter.
I have a report from the Commonwealth Tobacco Leaf Production Committee. There are certain aspects of it on which a decision has yet to be made by the Government, and I cannot make the report, public at present, but I assure honorable gentlemen that no one is more interested in the welfare of the industry than are the members of this Ministry, because some of them played an important part in giving the industry its first great stimulus in 1930 and 1931, during the depression when we wanted to cut down imports and expand local industries in order to create additional employment. It is unfortunate that the protection given to the industry was not maintained by subsequent governments. Those who opposed the imposition of duties to protect the primary and secondary industries of Australia have to take some share of the blame-
– All the blame.
– At least a large part of the blame for the whittling down of the protection, thus putting the tobacco-growing industry back into the doldrums from which it was emerging after the Scullin Government had given it practical assistance. I assure honorable members that they have not heard the last about the tobacco-growing industry. It has great possibilities and the Government will go right ahead with “its policy of giving further encouragement to it, in order that it may expand and provide greatly increased employment in rural districts.
. v - lt is unfortunate that the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) should have referred to the high duties imposed on imported tobacco leaf by the Scullin Government as having been for the benefit of the Australian tobacco-growing industry, because I believe that they were the greatest disservice ever done to it. The duties were so high that they encouraged Queensland sugar-cane growers to leave that industry and go to Mareeba to grow tobacco. They tried to grow it without knowing anything about the quality of the leaf that the market required. The result was the production of hundreds of thousands of pounds of “ cabbage “ leaf which became a drug on the market. The Scullin Government imposed the duty and the Lyons Government, as the result, had to force tobacco manufacturing companies to take the dark leaf and blend it with Virginian leaf so that the growers’ misled by the Scullin Government, should get a return for their labour. So it ill becomes the right honorable gentleman to say that the action taken by the Lyons Government threw back the tobaccogrowing industry of- Australia. The Scullin Government blindly imposed protective duties and encouraged people to grow tobacco without giving them the benefit of research and without ensuring the growing of types most likely to suit the requirements of the manufacturers and the smokers of Australia. This country can grow good tobacco leaf in regions where the climate and soil are suitable, but it can be grown only by men skilled in the industry. If the Minister intends to try to expand the tobaccogrowing industry, research will be necessary to determine not only the kind of leaf needed but also the suitability of regions in order that the growers may have a fighting chance of selling their leaf in competition with leaf that will come from Virginia, Rhodesia, and South Africa. We have a big job ahead of us if we are to grow leaf comparable with the best leaf that we can buy from those countries, but I believe that we can do it.
I was privileged to go with the late Mr. Lyons to the Queensland tobaccogrowing districts. The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Guy) was also in the party. When we reached Mareeba we were met by a most hostile deputation, because we had reduced the duty on imported leaf. We were taken to fished and read long homilies by some of the growers, who had been misled by the Scullin Government when it imposed the former duty. I well remember that the honorable member for Wilmot asked a full hall of growers whether any one of them was smoking his own tobacco. Not one of the growers at Mareeba was smoking the very leaf that they were growing and seeking to impose on the Australian smokers. So I say that this Government has a job to do to encourage the smoking of Australian tobacco. It must direct research into the growing of good tobacco leaf, and educate the Australian smoker to the taste of Australian tobacco by mixing a greater percentage of Australian tobacco with Virginian leaf. Some cigarettes are made from Australian leaf of poor quality, and no smoker who can obtain any other brand will purchase them. Quantities of dark leaf are still held in the factories, a legacy of the administration of the Minister for the Army when he was Minister for Trad*and Customs in the Scullin Government He encouraged growers to produce dark leaf, and it is being mixed with Virginian tobacco in ever-increasing quantities.
– Tobacco-growers pro duce only a light leaf at Mareeba.
– They may b* growing a light leaf now.
– They are through their teething troubles.
– I am speaking oi the production of leaf in the early 1930’s. when the industry was having its teething troubles. It had not grown its teeth, and was as “ gummy “ as is this dark leaf. The Government must educate Australian smokers to appreciate the taste of local tobacco, and that can be done only over a long period, and if the Australian tobacco-grower is encouraged to produce the finest leaf. When the Minister seeks to make political capital out of some suggestions which members of the Oppotion offered in good faith, the committee must be told the real story. The timewill come when possibly other approaches will be made regarding the production of tobacco, and I shall be in a position to tell an interesting story about the efforts of the Minister to stimulate the industry. The committee would have agreed to tho estimates for this department without a great deal of discussion, but the Minister preferred to turn this chamber into a shooting gallery and make party political capital out of the subject. When he resorts to those tactics, I am always prepared to join issue with him.
.- It is strange that, whenever an anti-Labour government has been in office, the production of tobacco in Australia has declined. During the war, the Commonwealth Government had many urgent problems for the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to solve, but, even so, scientists were made available to conduct experiments and recommend to the growers in the various States the types of soil likely to yield best results, and better methods of growing and processing the leaf. One matter requires special attention. Although in the last few years the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in conjunction with the State Departments of Agriculture, had advised on methods of overcoming certain problems associated with tobacco-growing, we always found at the next appraisement that other difficulties had arisen, and that the leaf was still not of good quality. Personally, I am convinced that something sinister is afoot. There appears to be a definite move by certain people to attempt to destroy the Australian tobacco industry. The honorable member for Wentworth mentioned countries where we can buy good leaf. In all those countries tobacco is grown cheaply, by black labour, and the tobacco “ combine “ owns the plantations. I was pleased to hear the Minister (Mr. Forde) speak of the activities of the investigation committee, but I am becoming a little impatient waiting for its report. As it has been the policy of the Government to assist the tobacco-growing industry, I hope that it will impress upon the investigation committee the necessity to complete its report as quickly as possible.
– I can recall a number of occasions when the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) has made the same speech as that which he delivered to-day on tobacco-growing. He always drags in the record of the Scullin Government by the leg or the hair, and invariably concludes with a statement in which he reveals himself as an unblushing advocate of high protection under all conditions. The main reason for my participation in the discussion is to ascertain how the Commonwealth’s tariff policy, which, the right honorable gentleman has justenunciated, will square with the provisions of the Atlantic Charter, one of which is that the nations which subscriber to the Charter shall definitely move towards an economic system in world affaire in which trade barriers and tariffs will be abolished. That is an interesting point, but it relates, not to local tobacco politics, but to international trade politics. The Commonwealth Government must announce its policy regarding this matter before long; I hope that the announcement will be made before the next election.
I do not desire to intrude in this discussion the views which I have expressed on previous occasions regarding the tobacco industry; but I wain the Minister that he cannot establish the tobacco industry or any other industry by a system of high duties alone. The belief that the Government can increase duties to a point where they will force the production of, say, tobacco, is ridiculous. I have a little pamphlet entitled Jimmy’s Infant Industry, which I shall present to the Minister. No doubt he has read it, but he should keep the pamphlet on his table and refer to it whenever he feels impelled to take drastic action. I have a. suspicion that his usefulness as Minister for the Army will soon cease, the Ministry will be reconstructed, and quite likely the right honorable gentleman will fly back to his old love as fast as he can. Then, once again, we shall hear him, as Minister for Trade and Customs, proclaiming how the tobacco industry can be established in a certain part of Australia.
One of the difficulties is that under the forced feed method adopted by the right honorable gentleman in the days when he was Minister for Trade and Customs in the ‘ Scullin Government, people attempted to grow tobacco in parts of the country where tobacco could not be grown, economically, commercially, or satisfactorily. The type of leaf produced was not that which tobacco manufacturers demand. Here I speak subject to some correction and subject to some difficulty, which I share with the Minister himself, as I believe that neither of us is a worshipper of “ My Lady Nicotine “. When I was in Western Australia I was shown leaf grown at Manjimup, in the electorate of Forrest, and I was informed that the best leaf in Australia is grown there. I have read documents on the files in government departments which show that the only State in which tobacco has been successfully grown to date is Western Australia. Queensland has the second best possibilities. The real difficulty is that some of the leaf which was submitted for appraisement to that dreadful monopoly, the British- Australasian Tobacco Company Proprietary Limited - a concern in which I have no financial interest - was about the size of, and about as thick as, a blanket. I examined the leaf which is grown at Manjimup and manufactured by Michelides Limited, of Perth. Barrels containing imported Virginian leaf were opened in my presence. I know nothing about tobacco, but I do know something about plants, and as a novice I could not distinguish between the Virginian leaf and the Manjimup leaf, either in size or texture, thickness or colour.
One important point which is often overlooked by honorable gentlemen opposite when they are arguing the wrongs of the tobacco industry is that the growing of tobacco is a specialist’s job; but that specialist’s job has been undertaken by people who had no special qualification for it. Another point is that the tobacco plant is subject to a greater variety of diseases than any other plant which has come to my notice. From the time the tobacco seed germinates until the leaves are selected for picking, all sorts of diseases attack the plant and all sorts of weather conditions may destroy the value of the plant at all stages or any stage of its growth. The third point which honorable members must bear in mind is that, having produced the leaf, the tobacco-grower is still “ in the wood “ because a further difficulty occurs in curing the leaf. That is often a more difficult process than growing the leaf.
One man in my electorate has produced ‘ tobacco successfully over a period of years, but he has never attempted personally to grow and cure it. Before the outbreak of war, he obtained through the Greek Consul a competent tobacco-grower and curer from the islands in the Aegean Sea, where a satisfactory type of tobacco ie produced. My constituent informed me several years ago that he had never had a failure in either growing or curing a crop, simply because he employed an expert. His property is situated in the Adelaide hills where the rainfall is very high. Many other people who tried to grow tobacco under the stimulus supplied by the Minister for the Army when he was Minister for Trade and Customs about fifteen years ago, know to their sorrow that certain soils will not grow the plant. Experts have informed me that the best tobacco is grown on the poorest types of soil. One does not require a rich soil, because it produces a blanket-like leaf which no cabbage or cauliflower would be so ambitious as to attempt to grow. These kinds of soil exist only in certain localities.
Publications on the growing of tobacco have been issued by Commonwealth and State departments, and one or two honorable gentlemen opposite should examine them before they intrude in a discussion of the tobacco-growing industry. They would learn how limited are the right types of soil and varieties of climate in Australia for the successful production of this very tender and sensitive plant. As T stated, high tariff duties alone will not overcome the difficulties of the tobaccogrower.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
. - I have had numbers of inquiries from business men as to when trade with European countries, such as Italy and Czechoslovakia, is likely to be resumed. They do not expect that normal pre-war trading conditions will return for some time, and they are aware that exchange difficulties will continue for two or three years, but they wish to make contacts with business men in European countries so that when the wheels of industry turn again they will be able to engage in some measure of international trade. I understand that commercial approaches can now be made to business interests in Italy. a country which, after fighting against the Allied Nations, came in on their side, hut I do not know the position in regard to other European countries, [f the Minister could say what period is likely to elapse before something approaching normal trading conditions will return, Australian business men would be able to make their plans for the future. At present, most imports come through the Division of Import Procurement. Can the Minister say what is to be the standing of that department in the future?
The future fiscal policy of the Government was referred to by the honorable member for Barker (Mir. Archie Cameron). I confess that no aspect of the Scullin Government’s administration was of greater assistance to me in winning my seat than its erratic tariff policy. That Government seemed to act without the guidance of any expert body. When 1 was abroad in 1935 I had evidence of the harm done to Australia’s good name by that Government’s tariff policy. The reputation of the then Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde) in other countries was not good. In saying that I refer, not to his personal character or to his intentions, but to his irresponsible and erratic tariff policy. The world of the future will be different from the pre-war world. Henceforth industry will operate in a highly competitive world. The important talks now taking place in regard to the future of foreign exchange is a matter of great interest to all Australians. We should know what tariff policy the Government intends to pursue in the future. My view is that our tariff wall is already high enough, and that if new industries are to be established in Australia, we should concentrate more on reducing costs than on erecting tariff barriers. The manufacture of complete motor cars is r case in point. It can be estab lished in either of two ways - first, by granting to it adequate tariff protection which, however, some prospective manufacturers do not want; and, secondly, by so reducing costs as to make it possible for the new industry to operate on a sound economic basis. In my view, the latter method is the better one to adopt. After inquiry by the Tariff Board, the Government should make up its mind what industries should be established or expanded, and then it should set out to reduce costs in those industries. The world is moving on, and is now in the early post-war period. Commercial men want to know where they stand, and that means that they must know what the Government’s tariff policy will be. I hope that the Minister will make a statement on this subject at an early date.
– Normal trading with Czechoslovakia and other continental countries will he resumed as soon as practicable, but at this stage it is impossible to give even an approximate date. Although Australia has made great progress in the development of secondary industry during the last twenty years, it is still necessary for many classes of goods and equipment to be imported. The Government’s policy has been to provide employment in both primary and secondary industries for the maximum number of people in Australia, and it looks forward to the time when this country will carry a greatly increased population. A nation of 7,300,000 people cannot hope to hold an area of 3,000,000 square miles. Australia’s population will not be increased unless profitable employment, which will enable people to enjoy reasonable standards of comfort, be provided. There must be an expansion of both primary and secondary industries. I can understand the disappointment of exporters in other countries when a country like Australia takes action to secure the major portion of the local market for its own manufactured goods, but I have found that they realize that Australia, as a self-governing country, has the right to work out its own destiny. They also recognize that all fiscal decisions are made by a democratically constituted authority in the country. There has not been any resentment against policies which have been put into operation by the Australian Parliament over the years.
The honorable member for Deakin also asked to be informed of the policy of the Government in relation to import procurement. The intention is to resume normal trading as soon as possible, bearing in mind the availability of dollar resources.
I have already dealt adequately with the representations that have been made in regard to the tobacco industry. I appreciate the suggestions, all of which will be very helpful. Every one desires that this industry shall develop. Recriminations on account of its comparative failure are undesirable. Certainly, no action taken by me, or by the Government of which I was a member at the time, was in any way responsible for what has occurred. As a matter of fact, the industry was given considerable stimulus, as these figures in regard to production prove -
Considering that every year we have to import 25,000,000 lb. of tobacco leaf, at a cost of £4,250,000, it is evident that there is room for very considerable expansion of the industry. During the war years, many causes have militated against such development. These have included the very acute shortage of labour, and doubtless some inefficiency. The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research has given a good deal of consideration to the problems of the industry, and has assisted it very substantially. Other factors have been shortage of materia], and the competition of other crops. Those who have any knowledge of food production during the war period realize that it has been more profitable to grow vegetables than tobacco.
– And less laborious.
– That is so. Last November, the Minister’ for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) appointed a special committee to investigate and report upon the production of tobacco leaf. That committee was composed of two representatives of the tobaccogrowers, and representatives of the Australian Tobacco Board, the Department” of the Treasury, Post-war Reconstruction and Trade and Customs, and the Price Commissioner, under the chairmanship of the Director-General of Agriculture. Mr. Bulcock. It submitted recommenda-tions in regard to the immediate difficulties of growers, and made proposals for a long-term policy for the encouragement and stabilization of the tobacco leaf industry. The Government agreed to tb« immediate payment of a subsidy, to growers, based on 10 per cent, of the proceeds from the crops for the 1943-44 and 1944-45 seasons, and promised similar additional remuneration in connexion with the next crop. The remainder of the recommendations were framed as a basis for the stabilization of the industry in the future. These were referred to a special committee of departmental officers, for review and elaboration in the light of the cessation of hostilities. That committee has held meetings; one was held to-day. Recommendations are being made to the Government, based on the findings of the investigation committee in regard to th* post-war needs of the industry. Those recommendations will be considered by Cabinet at a very early date.
.- It is time the Government and the Australian people realized the position thai exists in connexion with the tobacco industry. The Government decided to deal with that industry as it had dealt with the wool industry, by forcing all growers into one sales area, in which the value of the product would be determined. It claimed that for this task experts wen needed who understood the industry, and entrusted it to men who were buyers for the British-Australasian Tobacco Company Proprietary Limited, which hae affiliations with the British-American Tobacco Company. Any one with a knowledge of the industry realizes that the American interests were determined not to be deprived of the very lucrative market in Australia, and that, with the termination of the war, the people of thi* country should again be obliged to purchase Virginian tobacco, possibly with a blend of a fair proportion of Australian leaf, at the price charged for wholly Virginian. The Gunbower district, in my electorate, grew tobacco leaf of a very high class. As a matter of fact, I introduced to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) a well-known tobacco-grower who grew large crops. He produced to the Minister samples of lemon-coloured leaf, and that gentleman said that he had never seen Australian tobacco leaf to compare with it, except from a district in Queensland. Every one knows that the present-day tendency of smokers is to use cigarette tobacco. The growers in the Gunbower district received for their tobacco approximately the .same price as was paid for mahogany leaf grown on heavy country in the Myrtleford district, and throughout the north-eastern and some other districts of Victoria, notwithstanding the fact that it was of a much superior class and was suitable for cigar and cigarette making. That policy has squeezed out those growers. To-day, in that area only four growers are carrying on where previously 40 growers operated, and, in addition, those four growers now cultivate on the average only four or five acres each, whereas previously they cultivated an average of about 48 acres each. Any one who knows anything about this matter realizes that the appraisers of Australian tobacco during the war were primarily concerned with looking to the future in the interests of the BritishAmerican Tobacco Company; and the Government did not prevent those people from squeezing out growers in the interest of that company. In this way, the establishment of a first-class tobacco industry in Victoria has been prevented. I am led to believe that the company used for its purposes the president of the Tobacco Growers Organization in the Myrtleford area, with a view to frustrating thedevelopment of the industry, in order that when the war was over the Australian people would again be made to pay tribute to it. A similar policy on the part of the company has been evident in other first-class tobacco-growing districts. With first-class tobacco leaf, the yield is comparatively small, and consequently, the price should be higher. This company did not take much notice of the growing of mahogany leaf because, being of poorer quality, the development of that leaf would be only temporary. I believe that the company has gone out of its way to destroy the establishment of a firstclass tobacco industry in this country. It is high time that the Government took action to deal with that company, and gave a fair deal to the people who are trying to establish a first-class Australian primary industry.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed vote - Department of Health, £211,000- agreed to.
Department of Commerce and Agriculture
Proposed vote, £374,000.
– I should like to know why the expenditure proposed this year in respect of the Commercial Intelligence Service Abroad is only £40,900, compared with an actual expenditure last year of £41,300. Those who have some responsibility to rural industry and primary production are appalled to find that in the post-war period when we shall be confronted with most severe competition for markets overseas, and with the disadvantage of a depreciated market in the United Kingdom, less money will be available for the purpose of publicizing Australian products overseas than was actually expended for this purpose last year. This reduction calls for some explanation. Should a satisfactory explanation be not forthcoming, the Government will deserve censure for this action. Apparently, no provision is being made for the appointment of a full-time Trade Commissioner in Canada, where at present we have an Assistant Commissioner. What is the reason for the delay in that matter? We should make the most advantageous arrangement possible with Canada for the marketing of our surplus products in that country. I should also like to know why no provision is being made in respect of a Trade Commissioner in New Zealand. A sum of £1,500 was appropriated for that, purpose last year, but no provision at all is being made in these
Estimates. Do these facts indicate the Government’s total disregard of the importance of developing markets overseas for our primary products ? I ask the Acting Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Forde) to explain to the committee, and particularly to the primary producers of this country, the reasons for these reductions, particularly at a time when, obviously, appropriations of this kind should be considerably increased.
.- I draw attention to the position now confronting the lemon-growers of Australia, particularly those in Victoria. The facts are well known to the department, but are not generally known to honorable members. I doubt whether the Acting Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Forde) is aware of the position, In order . to make the situation clear I shall detail the sequence of events in the industry during the last few years. Early in 1941 it became evident that the requirements of citrus fruits, particularly lemons, for the services would be considerable, and growers in Victoria were then asked by the department to supply 500 tons to the services. ‘ Of this quantity, 250 tons was to be supplied by growers in the northern part of the State, and 250 tons by growers in the metropolitan area. The price fixed was £13 5s. a ton, plus extras for packing, &c, the total price being a little below the market price at that time. Lemons are difficult to grow because the trees suffer severely from frosts. However, the season that year was so good that growers in the metropolitan area alone were able to supply 350 tons. The following season was very poor, hut that year the department asked for 50 per cent, of growers’ crops and intimated that unless this demand were met it would requisition the crop. The price fixed that year was 620 a ton, plus £1 5s. a ton for cartage, which meant a net return to the grower of about 8s. 2d. a case. Owing to the poor season that year, the price which the growers received from the Government was substantially below the open market price. In the following year, 1943-44, the department again acquired 50 per cent, of the crop at a fixed price of £20 a ton. No special regulation was gazetted, the fruit being taken over under the general fruit control regulations. The season was a poor one, and the market price rose to £50 a ton, roughly £1 a case. Last year, the crops were again badly affected by frost. The acquisition scheme was continued, the Government taking 50 per cent, of the crop at £20 . a ton, although the selling price and ceiling price for lemons was £1 a case, plus 5s. extra for packing, &c This has now gone on for some years, and the growers feel that they are being badly treated. They have complained to the department, but have obtained no remedy. They approached the Prices Commissioner, again with no result. On the 26th January last, the growers were told to deliver 33-J per cent, of their crop between June and January, but at that time no mention was made of price. In April of this year, at a meeting held near Melbourne, the manager of the Commonwealth Citrus .Board said that the price would be £20 a ton as before. The growers cannot be satisfied with a price which is so substantially below the market price. Obviously, they are suffering heavy losses as the result of such a low price being fixed, and this has roused their resentment. Their sense of injustice is aggravated by the fact that a percentage of the fruit taken from them comes back to the public in the form of cordials. When the growers are able to get £50 a ton for their fruit on the market it is obviously unjust that the Government should compulsorily acquire the fruit at £20 a ton.
– Does the honorable member believe that the Government should pay £50 a ton?
– I think that it should pay the market price. The opinion of the Government seems to be that the growers are making very substantial profits because of the high price of lemons. When the growers approached the Prices Commissioner he asked them to tell him the actual cost of producing lemons, and how much they had made from the sale of their lemons over the preceding four years. Any one who knows orchardists must be aware that if they keep accounts at all, they are generally not well kept. A man who grows apples, pears and other fruit, as well as lemons, would find it very difficult to say what it cost him to produce the lemons, and it would even be difficult for him to say what profit he made from the lemons, because the return from them would be included in his general returns. If the growers are compelled to sell onethird of their crop to the Government -tit -a price much below the market price it must necessarily tend to foster blackmarketing. Growers will be tempted to sell on the open market rather than sell ro the Government at less than half the market price. I suggest that, two things should be done. The Government should pay for acquired fruit the ceiling price fixed by the Prices Commissioner, and « conference should be called attended by the Minister, an officer representing the Prices Commissioner and an accredited representative of the growers, in order to thrash the matter out. The longer the present situation continues the greater will be the loss sustained by the growers, and the harder will it be for the Government to obtain the supplies it needs.
Mr. ABBOTT (New England) [2.58J. - I support the protest of the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) against the reduction of the vote for maintaining trade representation abroad. It is tragic that, at a time when Australia is looking for overseas markets for primary products, and even for secondary products in Eastern countries, the Government should be reducing the scale of -our trade representation. Australian steel can be sold overseas more cheaply than the steel produced anywhere else. Every endeavour should be made to develop markets in the East. I know that the purchasing power of Eastern people, in general, is low, but it is also true that India has enormous sterling balances, and these could be used to purchase goods. Numerous inquiries are being received from India for goods of various kinds, yet we have in India only one trade commissioner, and he is also expected to keep an eye on our interests throughout the whole of the area from the Cape of Good Hope to the north of China. In China itself, we have no trade representation at all. The United States of America, on the contrary, is most active in this field, and has attached Agricultural advisers to ‘all its legations.
They play a very important role indeed in offering advice as to where American products can be placed. In fact, it is freely stated that when the requisitions for China were being made up recently, through Unrra, the advice of those commercial experts in other countries was sought. Australia was not represented with the result that the goods sent to China did not include a single bale of Australian wool. Australia’s entire commercial intelligence service, including trade commissioners, consists of only fourteen persons. That reflects a very shabby outlook by the Acting Minister for Commerce and Agriculture and his departmental officers on the important question of developing our oversea trade. A comparison of the salaries of trade representatives with those of members of the diplomatic corps is striking. We find, for instance, that the Australian Trade Commissioner in India receives £1,500 a year, plus an entertainment allowance of £500, making a total of £2,000, but the High Commissioner to that country receives £2,500, plus an allowance of a similar amount, making £5,000 in all. Yesterday the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) said that the commercial representation to this country was considerably more important than its diplomatic representation at present. I agree with that view, but I disagree with certain remarks that have been made in regard to the recent appointment of Mr. Dunk as Secretary of the Department of External Affairs. In selecting that gentleman for this position we have broken away from the tradition of mere diplomacy and appointed a practical roan who will use the external affairs side of Australia’s representation overseas to assist our commercial representations. Diplomacy and trade are interwoven. If we cannot develop our export markets in the Eastern countries we shall not be able to attract migrants to this country. I envisage a day when additional factories will be established in this country and Australia will produce many manufactured goods for the Indian market which to-day are being supplied by Great Britain and some European countries; but we shall never establish Australian products on the Indian market whilst our representation in that country is on the niggardly scale indicated by the Estimates. I hope that the Acting Minister for Commerce and Agriculture will consider this matter as soon as possible and recast our entire overseas commercial representation on a scale more commensurate with the importance of that work and more in keeping with the representation of other countries whose commercial attaches are flooding the world markets, especially in the East. If that is not done Australia will not only fail to hold its position in world trade, but will lose it.
.- The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) and the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) evidently believe that there has been a curtailment of Australia’s representation overseas. It is true that the estimated expenditure for this year is £40,900 compared with £41,300 actually expended last year, but that difference can be explained satisfactorily. In the first place, there is a difference of £1,500 in the cost of Australia’s representation in India. In that case, the higher cost last year was due to expenditure on fares and travelling expenses incurred in bringing Mr. Gollan back to Australia, and sending a clerk to India to assist Mr. Gollan. With regard to Australia’s representation in New Zealand, there is still an officer carrying out the work of a trade commissioner, under the High Commissioner, but his designation has been altered from assistant trade commissioner to commercial secretary. The appointment of a High Commissioner rendered the designation “trade commissioner” unnecessary, because all the work is done under the control of the High Commissioner. A High Commissioner to Canada has been appointed and has taken charge. There is also an assistant trade commissioner in Canada, working under the High Commissioner. It is the policy of the Government to expand its overseas trade commissioner services. I give honorable members an assurance on that point. Plans are now in preparation to meet the growing trade demands caused by the cessation of hostilities. Australia must look to its export, not only of primary products but also of secondary pro ducts. I believe that there is great scope for expansion of our export trade with Pacific countries, as well as with other nations such as the United States of America and the Latin Americas. One thing that greatly impressed me whilst I was abroad was the great interest taken by representatives of the United States of America and the Latin American countries in the possibility of greater trade with Australia. .Some of these countries are only too anxious to obtain our primary products. I believe it is of great importance that we should have a greater number of trade representatives abroad. They should be the eyes and ears of Australia. I subscribe to the view that, at least in the period immediately ahead, trade representation will be quite as important as diplomatic representation and probably will pay greater dividends.
– Can the Minister say what facilities exist within Australia to deal with inquiries by Australian firms in regard to export trade? Is there an office dealing specifically with this matter?
– Yes. In the Department of Commerce and Agriculture there are officers who have a special knowledge of this subject, and who have access to all reports from trade representatives overseas. That information is made available readily to exporters or prospective exporters who seek it.
– Where are those officer? located.
– At Canberra and, I believe, in each of the capital cities. Additional appointments of trade representatives overseas will require financial provision for only pari of the current financial year: consequently, the proposed vote probably will be sufficient. If not, provision can be made in another way. Prior to the war we did not have, trade representatives in the Netherlands East Indies or at Singapore; now that the war has ended, action will be taken in the near future to appoint representatives to cover those territories. We have a trade representative in Egypt, and one in India working under the High Commissioner. The suggestions made by honorable members are valuable and will be taken into consideration by the department and the Government.
– I am afraid that the Acting Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Forde) has missed the point of the criticism of the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) and the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott). Those honorable gentlemen are concerned with the fact that no provision is made for the expansion of our commercial intelligence service overseas during the postwar period, when we hope to increase our export trade considerably.
– I have said that appointments are now being made.
– But there is no provision on the Estimates for additional appointments. The Minister has explained the reduction of this year’s estimated expenditure by the fact that last year certain fares and travelling allowances had to be paid. At present we have a representative in Canada for whom the amount provided is £1,600. In view of the huge possibilities of interdominion trade, does the Minister believe that this representation is sufficient? Trade representaion in New Zealand is to cost only £500, Egypt £2,200, the United States of America £6,400. The whole thing is farcical. The Minister entirely lost the point of the criticism of the Leader of the Australian Country party and the honorable member for New England. Their argument was that instead of reducing expenditure on obtaining additional markets overseas the Government should be quadrupling it.
– A matter that is causing great dissatisfaction to all Australians is the pathetically casual attitude of the Government to the tremendously serious food shortage situation developing in Great Britain as the result of the cancellation of lend-lease activities. The Minister, after several attempts by us to interest the Government in the matter, made a statement, but, after having read it three times in an endeavour to extract , from it hope of action, I find that it is only a recital of reasons why we cannot do anything rather- than a statement of what the Government intends to do to help* the people of Britain through the crisis*. This is one of the tests of good fellowship and kinship between this country and Great Britain. We know that duringthe war the British people were subjected to possibly the severest trials of any of the peoples of the United Nations in respect of food supplies. Certainly, of all the English-speaking countries among the Allies, the people of Great Britain fared the worst. After years of war, in which they cheerfully endured privations, they might reasonably have expected that with victory to the United Nationstheir lot would be easier. I have commented before on the precipitate termination of lend-lease transactions, and I will: not go over the ground again ; but, whatever may be the legal position as between the United States of America and the countries that were in receipt of lendlease aid, there is no question as to the ties of kinship between us and the people of Great Britain, who are facing a food crisis equal to any that developed duringthe war. The aid that a common allegiance impelled us to give them then i3 equally needed by them now.
– We will help them.
– I am glad of the honorable member’s interjection, because I do not detect any evidence of anxiety on the part of the Government or its supporters to do anything to help them. We find that conditions are by no meanssatisfactory in Australia. At this very moment, in the Port of Sydney, the principal port of the Commonwealth, ships are held up because the waterside workers will not work. That means inevitable delays in the despatch of food to Great Britain. For a long time there has been a hold-up in the sugar industry in Victoria, and sugar is a commodity very much needed by Great Britain. The cancellation of lend-lease means the cessation of cargoes from the United States of America to Britain of dried milk, eggs, tinned and dried fish, dried fruits and other processed foods. Knowing how meagre the ration of the British people was up to the cancellation of the lend-lease arrangements, we can readily imagine the difficulties the people will find themselves in from now on. The
Minister’s statement tended to create the impression that the Government thinks that there is not much difference between the Australian food position, so far as it affects the individual citizen, and the British. Surely he does not ask us to entertain that notion for a moment? Although many commodities in Australia are rationed or are in short supply, we have an ample selection of foodstuffs, and no one is forced to go without a wide variety of adequate supplies of food of good quality. There have been temporary dislocations owing to transport difficulties, industrial stoppages and the like, but we have lived very well during the war. So I urge that the Government take more active steps. It must give a definite indication of its determination to help the British people. To-day, in Melbourne, a public meeting, which the Lord Mayor felt impelled to call, is being appealed to by Mr. Banks Amery for aid to the people of the Mother Country. As a gesture, the Government of Victoria has voted some thousands of pounds in order that additional food may be sent to England. I do not feel that the Commonwealth Ministry is wholly unsympathetic, but I do claim that it has not shown the readiness that it should show to deal urgently with this matter. “We owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to the people of Great Britain for the burdens that they have borne in the war just concluded. Expressions of gratitude can be meaningless unless they are backed up by practical aid along the lines that I have suggested.
Australian Army: Use op Private PROPERTY
Motion (by Mr. FORDE) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I have here a letter which will be of interest to the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde), and which requires some action on his part. The writer of the letter owns a house at Darwin worth approximately £1,500, which was taken over by the Army. He states-
This has been leased by the [Department of the Army until recently, when they vacated the property without notifying either my sister or myself (joint owners) and further have sublet to the Shell Oil Company, who now occupy the premises at a rental of £3 14s. (id. per month. My home cost approximately £1,500 to build and now we have reached the end of the duration, this rental is totally inadequate, and I consider thai £10 to £12 per month to be a more equitable figure.
I raise this matter because it involves an important principle. We cannot deny that, in time of war, the Commonwealth has the right to commandeer property for its own use, but when it has no further use for such property, it has no earthly right to sublet it to anybody else. The procedure should be that, as soon as the property is no longer required it should be handed back to the owner, who should be notified in time to enable him to take charge of it and look after it. This is not the first occasion on which I have had to complain about the way in which the Army has vacated property in the Northern Territory. The Minister for the Army will recall the case of a nian and woman at Ceduna who have property in the far north of Australia and who received a letter from the Array informing them of their responsibilities in respect of the property ten days after it had been vacated. They were informed that they would be responsible for looking after the place as from the 1st March, whilst another branch of the Army informed them that they would not be allowed to return to the Territory. This is over the odds. It is time that the Minister for the Army went down to Victoria Barracks with a big stick and said straight out that this sort of thing must stop. The Army should remain responsible for such places until the owners are permitted to return. In no circumstances is the Army entitled to sublet a property to the Shell Oil Company or to anybody else. The rightful owner should be allowed to return to it. I shall not press the matter further. It involves an important principle regarding the ownershir) of private property, and I hope that the Minister will investigate the case and make an appropriate decision.
– wi. reply - Prompt attention will be given to the very strong case made out by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) for reconsideration of the decision that has evidently been made by the Department of the Army in relation to a house at Darwin. I presume that the property was sublet some some ago, not recently. Now that the war has ended, there is a very good case for reconsideration of the conditions under which it was sublet. I shall obtain a complete statement on the matter from the Department of the Army and supply it to the honorable member as soon as possible.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre- sented : -
Banking Act - Regulations - StatutoryRules 1 945, No. 148.
Customs Act - Customs Proclamations - Nos. 635, 636.
Defence Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1945, No. 141.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for Commonwealth purposes -
Queanbeyan, New South Wales.
National Security Act -
National Security (Fish) Regulations - Orders -
Fish markets (New South Wales).
Sale of fish (New South Wales).
National Security (General) Regulations - Orders -
Control of -
Building materials (No. 3).
Essential materials (No. 16).
Hand and garden tools (No. 2).
Manufacture of glass - Revocation.
Production and distribution of footwear (No. 2).
Fishing industry (Estimates and returns ) .
Manufacture of toys - Revocation. Taking possession of land, &c. (11). Use of land.
National Security (Man Power) Regulations - Orders - Protected undertakings (52).
National Security (Rationing) Regulations - Orders- Nos. 104, 105.
National Security (Shipping Coordination ) Regulations - Orders - Nos. 97, 99-102.
National Security (Universities Commission ) Regulations - Order - Declaration of approved institutions.
Regulations - Statutory Rules 1945, Nos. 137, 139, 142. 146, 147.
Norfolk Island Act - Regulations - 1945 - No. 1 (Crown Lands Ordinance).
House adjourned at 3.21 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
y. - On the 14th September the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie “Cameron) asked the following questions, upon notice: -
The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1 and 2. The amount of £13,349,403 represents the cost as shown in the treasury accounts of the vessels known as the Commonwealth Government Line of Steamers, which were acquired during and immediately following the 1914-1.8 war. Detailed particulars in regard to each vessel are not available, but a schedule setting out the names and tonnages of 54 vessels transferred to the Australian Commonwealth Line in 1923 is included in the Schedule to the Commonwealth Shipping Act 1923.
s asked the Acting AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– I understand that the honorable member’s question refers only to income taxation, and the following information has been prepared on that understanding. The amounts collected by the various taxation offices wereas follows : -
n asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. upon notice -
Will thepostmaster-General approach the British authorities with a view of having the 5 lb. maximum weight for parcels to Great Britain increased to, say, 11 lb. weight?
– The PostmasterGeneral has supplied the following answer : -
The limitation respecting the maximum weight of parcels despatched to individuals in the United Kingdom is fixed by the British authorities, not by the Australian Post Office. The matter of reverting to the former arrangement which permitted parcels not exceeding a weight of eleven pounds (11 lb.) to be despatched to residents in Great Britain has been represented to the appropriate overseas authority concerned.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. upon notice -
Mr.Calwell. - The PostmasterGeneral has supplied the following answers : -
Allowance payable to a non-official postmaster or postmistress in any individual case is at the rate of £350 per annum. In addition, however, payment is made for the provision of necessary subordinate assistance and special allowances are payable for the provision of accommodation and light, attendances after normal office hours and outdoor services. District allowances ranging from £20 to £100per annum are also payable in certain circumstances. (b) The minimum rate of allowance payable upon the establishment of a nonofficial post office is £19 10s. per annum, plus payment at the prescribed scale rate in respect of each transaction handled, (c) Approximately £178 per annual.
Noethern Territory: civilian Butter Supplies.
asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
e. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Australian Abut : Seasonal Leave fob Primary Production ; Influenza Inoculations.
asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice-
e. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
e. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 21 September 1945, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1945/19450921_reps_17_185/>.